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Top OC Executives Join CLAOC to Find Talent

An undersupply of local talent in innovation fields is leading a group of Orange County’s most prominent executives to join forces.

The CEO Leadership Alliance Orange County (CLAOC) announced its board of directors would nearly double to 11 with the addition of five executives, including members from Newport Beach finance giants Pimco and Pacific Life Insurance Co.

“Newport Beach is very important to us—it’s important to make the place as attractive as possible to recruit,” Manny Roman, CEO of Pimco and one of the newly named directors, told the Business Journal.

“You need an ecosystem to make it happen.”

The other new board members are Kim Letch, Ernst & Young’s West region private equity leader, Darryl Button, CEO of Pacific Life, Lindsey Spindle, president of the Samueli Family Philanthropies, and Ed Mora, managing director and regional president of BNY Mellon Wealth Management.

The ability of CLAOC—which launched in 2017—to add five prominent executives to its board underlies its growing influence in the county, officials said.

Letch told the Business Journal that her goal is to help attract and retain talent in the region.

“Finding those individuals is an increasing challenge,” Letch said. “We want to attract talent into Orange County and retain that talent.”

Big Names

The nonprofit’s board and general members include some of the county’s biggest names like Mike Mussallem, chairman of Edwards Lifesciences Corp., the second most valuable publicly traded company headquarters in Orange County (NYSE: EW); Annette Walker, president of the City of Hope Orange County; and Brett Wall, EVP and president of Medtronic’s neurosciences portfolio where he oversees 15,000 employees.

Its chairman is Douglas Wilson, who is CEO of Next Solutions Inc., a real estate consulting firm.

Among its members are Palmer Luckey, founder of $8.5 billion valued Anduril Industries; Amir Aghdaei, CEO of Envista Holdings Corp. (NYSE: NVST), a provider of dental equipment with a $5.6 billion market cap; and Liam Griffin, CEO of Skyworks Solutions Inc., a chipmaker with a $18.1 billion market cap (Nasdaq: SWKS).

Key Goals

The group is a coalition of more than 55 CEOs who say they’re interested in solving some of Orange County’s most pressing problems.

The organization says many of the largest employers in the county are facing an undersupply of local talent – especially for innovation jobs.

At the same time, most OC workers don’t have in-demand skills or degrees they need, the group said.

“Talent is a fundamental driver for economic growth in any innovation hub,” the nonprofit said on its website.

“When there is a highly skilled talent pipeline, particularly in technology and STEM, it attracts companies to come to OC and build their presence in OC. This leads to a rise in innovation, social well-being, access, equality, and increased productivity—creating a thriving OC for all.”

Orange County has lagged other counties in innovation jobs, Chapman University President Emeritus Jim Doti said in a recent study.

The average annual wage paid in “advanced innovation industries” is $125,000, compared with an average of $66,300 for all other jobs in Orange County, according to Doti’s report.

Innovation jobs include a broad range of technology, software development, aerospace, scientific research, medical products and pharmaceutical development.

The Pimco Goal

Roman said retaining talented employees in Orange County or recruiting them here is a top goal.

“We need to be very competitive,” Roman said. “Everything that makes Orange County better in attracting talent and improving tech footprint is good for Pimco. We aren’t too proud to learn from others.”

Pimco, one of the world’s largest asset managers with $1.79 trillion under management, is often trying to recruit some of the world’s top portfolio managers from major financial centers like New York, London and Tokyo.

Roman noted that because of the West Coast times, portfolio managers often start their days around 3 a.m.

“The challenge is to attract young talent who want to work in Southern California, in Orange County,” Roman said.

The time commitments for CLAOC are “small, a couple hours a week.”

“There’s plenty for us to learn,” Roman said. “There are many different companies. It will give me an opportunity to learn best practices from my peers. I’m always open minded.”

Roman knows well the lure of international financial capitals like London, where he was CEO at Man Group PLC, one of the world’s largest publicly traded alternative asset managers.

After he took over as Pimco CEO in 2016, he moved to Newport Beach.

“Orange County is not a bad place,” he quipped.

“We care deeply about the community. We have a foundation where we try to help a lot of people with hunger. We try to be a responsible partner. There are challenges and hopefully we can solve them together.”

Aussie Perspective

Letch, a native of Australia who has lived here for the past two decades, has found Orange County to be “a fabulous business community.

“We have some extraordinary companies, both private and public,” she said. “It’s very much an entrepreneurial eco-system.

“There’s tremendous opportunity for anybody who wants to work in a company that is making a difference. This is a great place to work and live. It’s a great lifestyle.”

EY is the second largest accounting firm operating in Orange County with 624 employees, according to the Business Journal’s annual list published in June.

The local office annually recruits about 40 employees, including engineers and software programmers in addition to accountants, Letch said. The CLAOC’s focus on talent led her to join the organization.

“As I evaluate my time and where do I want to spend it, it’s about where does it make a difference? Where is the impact? I care about the talent in this community.

“It’s very corporate led and that’s a real differentiator.”

EY has worked with CLAOC on programs such as helping minority youngsters learn about different business opportunities available in Orange County.

“They know what their parents do, but they don’t have visibility into other professions,” Letch said.

The Programs

The nonprofit has a variety of programs, such as OC Fellows to help retain young professionals by exposing them to a variety of industries in the region.

A dozen of the fellows wrote about their experiences in a Leader Board in the July 3 print edition of the Business Journal.

Another program is to teach high school students what they need to know to thrive in the coming world with artificial intelligence. It also has a Career Exploration Experience that recently highlighted engineering students at University of California, Irvine touring the local facilities of Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical device makers.

Mora told the Business Journal that he’s interested in expanding the nonprofit’s career program to reach more diverse talent in OC high schools, community colleges and universities.

“I bring deep connectivity to the wealth management and banking industries that also can provide great career paths and high-paying jobs in Orange County,” Mora said.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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